Category Archives: Food

Fall Gardens

The official start of summer is still 9 day away, however if you plan to plant a Fall garden, now is the time to select your Fall garden plot and ready it for planting. It is also near the time to plant your seed to establish seedling transplants.

New Fall garden site selection.
The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure. If such exposure is not received by crops such as tomatoes, peppers and squash (vegetables that contain seed), the plants grow spindly, they have weak stems, drop blooms and are generally nonproductive. Shade in the afternoon (after 3 p.m.) is wonderful; shade in the morning is acceptable. There are vegetables which produce passably in the shade. Generally, those crops such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower, root crops (carrots, turnips) which do not produce a fruit with seed will yield sparingly in semi- shaded areas but even these crops will do better in a full sun condition. Crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and cucumbers may not produce anything if grown in the shade; plants will grow tall and spindly. The production potential of the garden’s most popular vegetables depends solely on the amount of direct sunlight they receive.

Turf grass MUST be removed. Don’t think that you can dig or till this existing grass into the garden soil and get rid of it. Even a well-tilled, pulverized garden soil will contain enough bermuda grass sprigs to cause troubles for years to come. New garden areas are doomed before they begin if all bermuda and other lawn grass is not completely removed BEFORE tillage begins. If a raised garden is being considered, sod should be removed BEFORE additional soil is put into the prepared frame.

Chemicals applied to the grass to kill it rather than pulling it out. There are several brand names which contain the weed and grass killer glyphosate. These include Roundup and Kleenup check ingredients on label for the term “glyphosate” and follow label instructions for application rate.

Quick (30-60 days) maturing vegetables are: beets (1 1/2 feet) FT; bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; leaf lettuce (1 foot) FT; mustard (1 1/2 feet) FT; radishes (1 1/2 feet) FT; spinach (1 foot) FT; summer squash (3 feet) FS; turnips (1 1/2 feet) FT; and turnip greens (1 1/2 feet) FT.

Moderate (60-80 days) maturing vegetables are: broccoli (3 feet) FT; Chinese cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; carrots (1 foot) FT; cucumbers (1 foot) FS; corn (6 feet) FS; green onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; kohlrabi (1 1/2 feet) FT; lima bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; okra (6 feet) FS; parsley (1 1/2 feet) FT; peppers (3 feet) FS; and cherry tomatoes (4 feet) FS.

Slow (80 days or more) maturing vegetables are: Brussels sprouts (2 feet) FT; bulb onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; cantaloupes (1 foot) FS; cauliflower (3 feet) FT; eggplant (3 feet) FS; garlic (1 foot) FT; Irish potatoes (2 feet) FS; pumpkins (2 feet) FS; sweet potatoes (2 feet) FS; tomatoes (4 feet) FS; watermelon (1 foot) FS; and winter squash (1 foot) FS.

Using your Spring and Summer garden site. Once the decision to have a fall garden has been reached, a gardener must take action drastic action. You must pull out some of those plants that have been nurtured from “babies” in the spring to monsters now. This takes courage and faith! It is recommend that all plants, weeds included, be removed except okra, cherry tomatoes and pole beans if the foliage is healthy. Large-fruited tomatoes may have some small ones still hanging on, but unless you have at least 20-25 good-sized fruit, pull them out, make green tomato relish or chow-chow. Pull the old plants up and discard them. Give them to the garbage man. Don’t try to compost insect and disease ridden plants.

The two charts below are for planting Fall crops in zone 7.
You will need to adjust your planting dates to suite the USDA zone you garden in.

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There’s A Chicken In My Coop!

barn yard chickens It’s getting to be the time of the year that many folks that bought 25 or more day old chicks in January now need to deduce their flock size. You can often pick up roosters, pullets and young laying hens at a very reasonable price now. Pullets generally start laying at about 20 – 26 weeks of age. Heavy ‘duel purpose’ birds tend to to be closer to 26 weeks old. If your looking for meat birds or a rooster for your flock start looking now. Many flocks will have far to many roosters and you can pick them up for rock bottom prices.
Don’t get carried away buying fresh off the farm meat birds. Never pay more for an old hen or a young rooster than the cost of a processed ready to cook bird cost in your supermarket.

Any of the Leghorn breeds are excellent layers and do not go broody. They lay large white eggs. Put them in an old store egg carton and the kids will never know the difference. Most other breeds lay lightly tinted to dark brown eggs. Check out McMurry’s Catalog for a ton of useful information on many different breeds, egg colors they lay and much more.

A word about eggs from the USDA.

Brown eggs are better for you than white eggs, is that true?
Does the color of the shell affect the egg’s nutrients?
No. The breed of the hen determines the color of her eggs. Nutrient levels are not significantly different in white and brown shell eggs.
Araucuna chickens in South America lay eggs that range in color from medium blue to medium green. Nutrition claims that araucuna eggs contain less cholesterol than other eggs haven’t been proven.

Answer: Shell color does not affect the quality of the egg and is not a factor in the U.S. Standards, Grades, and Weight Classes for Shell Eggs. Eggs are sorted for color and marketed as either “white” or “brown” eggs.

On average, brown eggs are bigger in size than white eggs, due to the breed of chicken laying the eggs. Brown eggs cost more to produce and is usually reflected in the cost per dozen at retail.

Are Free Range or Cage Free eggs nutritionally better than eggs from hens in a caged environment?
Answer: Free Range or Cage Free eggs denote the environment in which the laying hens were housed. Currently, USDA does not have definitive scientific data stating a nutritional difference in egg nutrition, due to hen housing.

What is the difference between Free Range and Cage Free eggs?

Answer: Free range must be produced by hens housed in a building, room, or area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their laying cycle. The outdoor area may be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material.

Cage free must be produced by hens housed in a building, room, or enclosed area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and provides the freedom to roam within the area during the laying cycle. Access to outdoor areas is not a requirement.

USDA Are eggs safe to eat after the Use By or Sell By date has expired?

Answer: The Use By or Sell By dates stamped on the end of an egg carton denotes the period of optimum egg quality. As eggs age, the yolk membranes and tissues weaken and/or moisture is absorbed from the albumen (white). As a result, the yolk begins to flatten and the albumen becomes watery. This is indicative of a Grade B, quality egg.

For baking purposes, a higher quality egg (Grade AA or A) is preferred. For hard-boiling purposes, a lower quality egg (Grade B) is preferred.

Additionally, retailers utilize the Use By or Sell By dates for stock rotation or inventory control.

USDA Egg grades
There are three consumer grades for eggs: U.S. Grade AA, A, and B. The grade is determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight (size).

U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. Grade AA and Grade A eggs are best for frying and poaching where appearance is important.

U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are “reasonably” firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.

U.S. Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains. This quality is seldom found in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.

USDA Sizing of Eggs
Size tells you the minimum required net weight per dozen eggs. It does not refer to the dimensions of an egg or how big it looks. While some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest, it is the total weight of the dozen eggs that puts them in one of the following classes:

Size or Weight Class Minimum net weight per dozen
Jumbo …………………. 30 ounces
Extra Large …………. 27 ounces
Large ………………… 24 ounces
Medium ………………… 21 ounces
Small ………………… 18 ounces
Peewee ………………… 15 ounces

USDA Should you wash eggs?
No. It’s not necessary or recommended for consumers to wash eggs and may actually increase the risk of contamination because the wash water can be “sucked” into the egg through the pores in the shell When the chicken lays the egg, a protective coating is put on the outside by the hen. Government regulations require that USDA-graded eggs be carefully washed and sanitized using only compounds meeting FDA regulations for processing foods.

Chicken growers have a large selection to choose from. The tiny Mille Fleur to the New Jersey and Black Giants. Everything from plain Jane everyday chickens to award winning Fancy’s. They come in every color in a rainbow to solid whites or blacks. Some breeds are very quite easy to handle others always seem to be a bit stand offish and on the skittish side. With that said, they all have a few things in common. They are always fun to raise, fun to watch, wonderful table meat and produce eggs from thumb nail size to extra large. No mater what breed you select I’m sure you will enrich your life and give your family an experience they will carry through life. You will be blessed having them in your backyard survival farm.

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Tomato Season Is Near

blossom end rot

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service provides many pictures to help you diagnose and treat your tomato disease problem(s).
Tomato Problem Solver and
Disorders of Tomato Leaves

You can’t treat your diseased tomato plants if you don’t know what disease they actually have. The secret to successful tomato growing is to check your plants everyday and start a treatment plan as soon as you see the first signs of a disease or insect problem.

University of Iowa Also has a great fact sheet on line with photographs and treatments for many common tomato diseases. This is a PDF file.

You may find what you thought was a disease problem is really an insect infestation. If this is the case take a look at Colorado state University Extension service: Tomato Insect Pests fact sheet for insect identification and controls.

This has nothing to do with tomato’s but it’s too good not to share.
I am relieved to know that my T-bone steak was ‘made’ by my market and growing a cow for 2 or 3 years is no longer required. Click picture to zoom-in.

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May 21 – 28 ….. Post Storm ….. Week In Review

It’s the last week of May and we are seeing ‘real’ temperatures of 93 to 99 degrees and heat index is forecast to be 103 to 109 degrees in my tiny part of Oklahoma today and Sunday.

Garden, trees, bushes and vines are beginning the slow recovery from last weeks 100+ mph wind and hail storm. It is safe to say none of my plants are looking great.

The same storm was hard on my Hummingbirds. After the storm I only have about half as many Hummingbirds coming to my feeder. I can only guess what happened to the other Hummingbirds.

Bamboo was about 7 foot tall, but after the storm many of it’s canes had their tops broken off. I don’t think this years canes will grow any taller. Maybe next year it will succeed in reaching it’s mature height of around 20 – 25 feet tall.

Purple Martin’s have hatched and fledged. It won’t be many days and they will be self sufficient and leave their nest site.

Carport steel has been cut to length, bolt plates and support brackets are welded in place. Michelle L. has decided to paint all steel framing gloss black and covered with a dark green sheet metal to match her house roof sheet metal.

Duck and Goose. I am now the proud owner of a young duck and goose. Gave to me when the previous owners discovered how fast they grow and large they will be, Grin … Not House Pets. The duck is just starting to loose its down and growing it’s first feathers. The goose is still a few weeks from being feathered out. Grin.. I had forgotten how much water they drink and how fast feed goes from mouth to fertilizer.

Have a fun safe Memorial day weekend.

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Definition: Mothers day, Nine months after Fathers day

Hummingbird feeder update– New feeder arrived, took down old feeders and hung new feeder last Friday morning. Filled feeder with a fresh batch of sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water, 2 cups water 1/2 cup sugar makes 1 pint feeder mix).
Hummingbirds seem happy with the new feeder and after 3 days, No Bees hanging around the feeder. Will buy more of this type feeders.

Today we hit 93 degrees F(33.9C). Spring rains are still staying 100+ miles north of my tiny garden moving east into Arkansas and Missouri. I’m still watering each tree and vine for 1 hour then moving on to the next plant. Sad smile… by the time I get all plants well watered it will be time to start the process over.

Daughters little 8 foot X 20 Foot garden space is filling up and looking really good. (Click photo to Zoom in).

Bamboo(year 2) and Cannas are doing well.
Cannas will soon be in full bloom and with luck Bamboo will reach it’s advertised height of 25 feet tall.

PS. Chiggers are active and doing well. 😦

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Cheap Entertainment. Hummingbirds In The Garden.

Top Secret Manhattan Hummingbird Project.

Every year I tell myself I need to do more to attract Hummingbirds to the garden but fail to follow through.

(1). This year I have purchased 2 – Honeysuckle vines to plant near the area where I hang my feeders.
(2). I have ordered a different ‘style’ feeder. It makes claim to have bee guards on the feeding ports and is equipped with a perch so the birds can land and feed verses chasing a swing feeder in the wind in an attempt to feed.

Grin… I must be easily entertained.

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1,003,626 hits and counting.

I missed it! Sometime in the past day or so Town & Country blog registered it’s one millionth page hit. My Blog Stats: May 4th 2017: 1,003,626 hits.

Thanks you for taking time to visit my tiny blog and most of all Happy Gardening.

Weather has not been cooperative this week. I missed out on the heavy rains forecast for this past Saturday and Sunday, however the forecast winds were on target. Sundays winds were 30-35 mph gusting to 50 mph. This wind event lasted more than 18 hours. Monday – Thursday this week winds have been a bit calmer, only reaching 20-25 mph during day light hours and dropping off to around 10 to 15 mph at night. Humidity levels have remained low both day and night.

Soil moisture has quickly dropped from a plant stressing 0.46% at 4 inches to 0.22% as of this afternoon. Agricultural experts say “Most plants experience water stress when less than 0.50% of the maximum plant available water remains in the active root zone.”

I have been watering using a slow drip style. Watering trees and vines using this slow drip method allowing the water to run 1 hour on each plant, however I think the warm dry winds and the dry soils are wicking away and evaporating the water faster than I can apply water to my stressing plants.
I’m hoping this is not the start of our next drought. Our last drought lasted 5 years beginning in the fall of 2005 and ending in the spring of 2011.
I have received a meager 1-1/4 inches of rain in the past 50 or 60 days.

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Figs and Grapes

The Brown Turkey fig tree and the Venus grape vine arrived and was planted yesterday. Temperature was OK, about 73 degrees F, but we had a 25 mph gusting to 30 mph wind all day. Warm weather and more than a week of 20+ mph wind have dried the soil. Digging the tree/vine holes was a chore with the soil so dry. At any rate I managed to get them planted and ran a slow flow of water for an hour on each new plant.

Wind permitting today I will put down 4 to 6 inches of wood chip mulch around the new planting to help control weeds and retain soil moisture.

Attracting bees to pollinate is or can be a problem in what is mostly wheat and grass pasture country. So I try to always buy self pollinating plants.

The grape trellis is now filled with 1- Flame, 1- Concord and 1- Venus seedless self pollinating grape vines. I’m not sure the dwarf Apple I transplanted will survive. If it dies next winter I will replace it with a semi-dwarf variety.

The native Pecan tree I dug and moved in to the orchard is only about 8 inches tall but it has leafed out and seems to happy with it’s new home.

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Fig Tree In Your Garden… It’s Possible

Figs are one of the oldest cultivated crops and were enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. They are a semi-tropical tree that is easy to grow in areas with long, hot summers.

Fig is a deciduous, small tree or bush like, usually growing 8 to 20 feet tall, In cooler zones often more bush like than tree like, with large, lobed, deep green leaves. The first crop of fruit in spring is called the “breba” crop, maturing from buds set on last years growth. The main crop that follows in the fall(this years growth) matures on the new growth made that summer. In cooler parts of the U.S. the breba crop is sometimes lost to late spring frosts.

There are a number of fig varieties adapted to different regions of the country.
Good varieties include:
These are Self-Pollinating and you will not need a second tree for a pollinator tree.
zones 5-10, ‘Chicago Hardy’.
zones 6-11, ‘Brown Turkey’
zones 7-10, ‘Celeste’
This is 3 of the most common varieties sold in nursery’s.

Set out new trees in spring. Set bare root trees atop a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away without unduly bending them. Identify original planting depth by finding color change from dark to light as you move down the trunk towards the roots.

Container grown(potted) trees, remove the plant from its pot and eliminate circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and cutting through the roots with shears.

Young trees need regular watering while they are getting established, and established trees in dry climates will need deep watering at least every week or two. A deep layer of mulch over the root zone will help to conserve moisture.

Figs generally don’t need much pruning to be productive. Shape trees lightly during the dormant season and remove dead, diseased, broken or crossing branches.

In the northern parts of the U.S. figs may benefit from frost protection. In late fall, tie the tree’s branches up to make it more compact, fashion a cage of chicken wire around the tree and fill it with dry straw for insulation. Wrap the outside of the cage with layers of burlap and plastic. Remove the wrappings and straw in spring just before new growth begins and after the danger of hard frost.

Fruits should be completely ripe before they are picked. Ripe figs will be fully colored, starting to bend over at the neck and will be slightly soft. Pick them with the stem still attached. Fresh figs will keep in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.

Hint Eat whole. Figs have a mildly sweet taste and can be enjoyed fresh and on their own.
The skin of the fig is edible. You do not need to peel the fig before eating it. Merely twist off the stem and eat the fig skin and all.
If you do not like the texture of the skin, you can peel it off before eating the fig. After twisting off the stem, carefully use your fingers to peel away the skin starting from the exposed top.

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Fennel – Under Used And Unappreciated


Fennel is a flowering plant species closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean. Use Fennel in soups, stews, salads, baked, broiled or eat them raw.

There are two types of fennel. One is treated as an herb (Foeniculum vulgare) and one that is treated like a bulb type vegetable (Florence fennel or Finocchio – Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce).
The herb type grows 3-5 feet tall with fine textured foliage resembling dill. Flat topped clusters of yellow flowers appear in late summer. Stems, leaves and seeds of this type of fennel are harvested and used.
Florence fennel is shorter with darker green foliage and is grown for its large, flat thick rosette of petioles at the base often referred to as a “bulb.” Both forms have an anise or licorice flavor.

Fennel are grown from seed. Both types prefer a full sun location in soil that is well prepared with organic matter. This is especially important when growing Florence fennel as it prefers uniformly moist soil to develop the best “bulb.” Herb fennel is best direct sown in the garden in the spring after frost is past. It does not transplant well due to its tap root structure.

Florence fennel is also direct sown into the garden but seeding is best done from mid-June to July. This is done to allow the crop to develop during the cooler, shorter days of late summer and early fall. If planted earlier, long, hot days of summer result in plants bolting (flowering) thus reducing the quality of the “bulb.” Another important consideration for Florence fennel is maintaining uniform soil moisture. If soils are allowed to dry out, it will result in bolting and affect bulb quality. When “bulbs” start to swell and become the size of an egg, push soil around the “bulb.” This will produce a paler and tenderer “bulb.” This is a blanching process that is similar to what is done with leek.

Herb fennel can be harvested as needed by cutting away the feathery foliage. If seed is desired, allow the plant to flower and when the flower heads turn brown the plant can be cut, place in a paper bag and hung in a cool, well ventilated area to dry. Seeds will drop down into the bag and can then be cleaned and stored. Foliage can also be air dried and stored for later use.

Florence fennel can be harvested when the “bulbs” are about the size of tennis balls by digging the “bulb” and cutting off the root and cutting back the top. “Bulbs” can be stored in a cool location for several weeks.

Hint: Make any cabbage dish special by adding a bit of Fennel.

Fennel Popular Varieties
Herb Fennel Types
Sweet Fennel – Standard variety for fresh and dry leaf production.
‘Purpureum’ – A bronze leaf type. It is used as an ornamental.
‘Rubrum’ – A deep bronze to red leaf type. Also is used as an ornamental.

Florence Fennel Types
‘Rhondo’ – Uniform round bulbs, quick to mature.
‘Victoria’ – Vigorous type with grater resistance to bolting.
‘Cantino’ – A very slow to bolt variety good for early planting.
‘Mantavo’ – Good yield in slow bolting variety.

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